A fire driven by strong winds raced through a brick building in Boston, trapping and killing two firefighters in the basement, where their colleagues couldn’t rescue them.
Thirteen other firefighters were injured in the blaze in the brownstone on Wednesday, and several police officers were also taken to hospitals.
Some residents had to be rescued from the upper floors of the four-storey apartment building, but none was hurt, city officials said.
“Today’s a sad day for the city of Boston,” Mayor Marty Walsh said. “We lost two heroes here today.”
The firefighters were identified as Lt Edward J. Walsh, a 43-year-old father of three who had almost a decade of experience, and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, a 33-year-old Marine Corps combat veteran who had been a firefighter for more than six years.
Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Finn said the fire appeared to have started in the basement but moved quickly through the building. The cause wasn’t known, but he said all indications are that it was accidental and that it was the wind that caused the fire to spread through the building so quickly. Firewalls stopped the fire from consuming adjacent buildings.
“In 30 years I’ve never seen a fire travel that fast, escalate that quickly and create such havoc in such a short period of time,” Finn said.
He said Walsh and Kennedy had gone down inside stairs into the basement, and he assumed that a front window broke out and blew the fire back at them. They called a mayday within two or three minutes of entering the building. Kennedy was found about 30 minutes later and was pulled from the building but was pronounced dead at a hospital. Walsh’s body was recovered later.
Some of the other firefighters were injured when they were blown down stairs by a backdraft explosion caused by the wind, Finn said.
“The smoke was unbelievable,” said Kayla Dasilva, who lives a few blocks away and went with her roommate to see what was happening.
Anna Kosmidou, who lives in the apartment building next to the one that caught fire, said she and other residents were told they could not stay there on Wednesday night.